Friday, May 30, 2014

Slow Sales on the Sphinx

A royalty statement, filled in by hand.Tucked into one of our copies of Oscar Wilde's The Sphinx (London: Bodley Head, 1894) is a fragment of a Wilde poem in his hand and a royalty statement from his publisher, John Lane. As of February 1895, 132 copies were still in stock and only nine had sold since the previous statement in September. Lane calculated the 10% royalty at two pounds, no shillings, and three pence.

A stylizes image in gold, depicting a woman and a sphinx.This limited edition had a print run of 200, so only a third of the copies had found buyers at that point. The statement refers to two different states of the book: the more luxurious, large-paper copy sold for over four pounds while the small paper copy was priced at 35 shillings.

An excerpt of handwritten text.
Our second copy of the same book lacks the glamor of manuscript inserts, but has a watercolor of an Egyptian scene painted beneath the half title. We haven't figured out who the painter is (the signature looks like "Bamdin") but it is clearly not in the style of Charles Ricketts' illustrations.

A full-page illustration of the head of the sphinx in front of greenery and a higher structure.
Come see for yourself by asking for Val 826 W64 W6 copies 1 and 2.

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